Introducing Buddhism Course, tutor: Mike Horne
A Glossary of some Buddhist jargon words
Jargon words enable members of a specialist community to communicate with each other, but can also be used to exclude outsiders! Buddhism is blessed with many jargon words because of its eastern origins. These come from many languages (Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Tibetan) and the picture is more complicated by the existence of different modes of transliteration and pronunciation, so you may see the same word spelt in different ways in English. Some of these words are particularly useful when there is no English word, which exactly represents the Buddhist concept or meaning (such as Dukkha, Karma, Nirvana, and Samsara). But for some people it is the different-ness or orientalism is what attracts them to Buddhism.
Amida: mythical Buddha of the Pure Land.
Anatta/anatman: the Buddhist belief that there is no permanent self or soul.
Anicca: the belief that all conditioned/created things are impermanent.
Arhat/arahant: enlightened individual.
Bikkhu: monk (particularly Theravada).
Bodhisattva: 'enlightened being' either the historical Buddha before He became enlightened, or someone close to Buddhahood, or a mythical being representing aspects of enlightenment, or any person who has taken the Bodhisattva Vow.
Bodhisattva Vow: vow taken by followers of Mahayana schools to put off their personal enlightenment until they have helped all beings to enlightenment.
Buddha: the historical Buddha Siddhartha Gotama; any fully enlightened being; mythical enlightened beings; the state of being awake/enlightened.
Buddha Nature: the inherent potentiality of all beings to become Buddha; the eternal indefinable oneness of all things.
Delusion: ignorance of our true Buddha Nature; belief in a permanent self/ego.
Desire: the selfish wish for things/experiences which are pleasant and fear of that which is unpleasant.
Deva: a god
Dharma/Dhamma: the teachings of the Buddha; teachings of Buddhists; the scriptures; the path to Buddhahood.
Duality: in Buddhism (particularly Zen) this refers to the apparent separation of me from other than me.
Dukkha: the unsatisfactoriness/unhappiness/suffering experience by the self/ego.
Four Noble Truths: discovered by the Buddha - suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.
Geshe: honorific title for someone who has passed the 'geshe degree' qualification in Tibetan Buddhism.
Hinayana: 'small vehicle' paths/schools which aim for personal enlightenment.
Karma: literally 'action'; but tends to be used to mean the law of Karma and Vipaka 'action and results'. The Buddhist meaning is not quite the same as the Hindu.
Kensho: Zen term for glimpse of Sartori.
Koan: a riddle that cannot be solved by intellectual thinking used in Rinzai Zen meditation; one's own particular delusion(s).
Mahayana: 'large vehicle' paths/schools which aim for the enlightenment of all beings.
Metta: active love and goodwill towards others
Nirvana/Nibbana: the state of enlightenment; an end to the cycle of rebirth in samsara.
Noble Eightfold Path: the path that leads to the cessation of suffering; right understanding, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
Pali: the language of the Theravada version of the scriptures.
Pure Land: mythical Buddhist heaven one step away from Nirvana; School(s) of Mahayana Buddhism teaching that we can be helped to enlightenment via rebirth in the Pure Land by mythical Bodhisattvas and Buddhas; a pure state of consciousness.
Rebirth: being reborn in Samsara due to our ignorance and past Karma; actual interpretations vary from reincarnation of the self to recycling of constituents.
Rinzai: a Zen school that favours use of koan meditation.
Sanskrit: classical language of India, used for Mahayana scriptures.
Samsara: the cyclic world of life and death; the world/state of suffering and delusion.
Samatha/samadhi: one-pointed concentration in meditation.
Sangha: the Buddhist community, either specifically monks or all who practice.
Sartori: Zen term for seeing one's own true nature (enlightenment)
Sila: morality; the precepts accepted by monks.
Soto: a Zen school that favours 'just sitting' meditation.
Sutra/Sutta: scripture; recorded teaching of the Buddha.
Sunyata: the ultimate 'void' or 'emptiness' of Mahayana philosophy; total impermanence.
Tantrayana: Tibetan Buddhism.
Tathagata: 'Thus Gone' - the Buddha
Theravada: the last remaining Hinayana School, popular in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma.
Tripitaka: the 'three baskets' of scriptures.
Vajrayana: Tibetan Buddhism.
Vipassana: "insight meditation".
Zen: literally meditation; the 'meditation' school of Buddhism as practised in Japan.
A glossary of Zen terms